SUMMARY OF WORKSHOP PRESENTATIONS
The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) asked the National Research Council’s Ocean Studies Board to convene a one-day workshop on educating and recruiting experts in the fields of fisheries stock assessment and the social sciences. 1 The board was asked to discuss possible approaches for ensuring an adequate future supply of stock assessment scientists, fishery economists, and fishery social scientists to meet government science and management needs, and to maintain university training capabilities.
The workshop was designed to yield a summary of discussions without reaching any consensus recommendations. At the workshop—held on July 17, 2000, in Woods Hole, Massachusetts—NMFS presented its plans for recruiting specialists in fisheries stock assessment and social sciences. Participants discussed those plans, a presentation on student career choice, and the results of a study on marine fisheries scientists (see agenda in Appendix A). The projected need for additional stock assessment and social scientists was not evaluated 2 , nor was a number of important factors related to fisheries education and recruitment. Such factors are listed at the end of Chapter 2 as questions that NMFS could address to understand its recruitment needs.
Human Resource Needs
NMFS is the primary provider of scientific advice to guide the management of marine fisheries in the U.S. exclusive economic zone; as such, the agency must estimate how many fish exist and the optimum harvest levels. Regional fishery management councils (established under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976) and other management entities then set harvest levels and allocate harvests in ways that are economically
To support its scientific advisory role, NMFS employs individuals skilled in fisheries biology, stock assessment, and the social sciences. Regional fishery management councils, states, and interstate and international commissions based in the United States share responsibilities for fisheries management and also must have access to individuals trained in these same fields. In addition, industry groups and nonprofit environmental organizations employ fishery scientists to provide independent assessments and to participate in management. Fishery biologists are in relatively ready supply and NMFS does not anticipate any difficulty in recruiting such individuals. The demand for specialists in fisheries stock assessment and social sciences, however, is expected to increase in the near future. The problems related to fisheries management are critical and solution of these problems is hindered by the shortage of experts. Lawsuits against NMFS by the commercial fishing industry and the environmental community challenge fishery management plans and other regulatory actions on technical grounds primarily related to the statutory requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, Regulatory Flexibility Act, Endangered Species Act, Coastal Zone Management Act, and their associated regulations, requiring more effort for stock assessment and social science analyses.
The NMFS scientific workforce is spread among 5 regional science centers composed of 26 laboratories. Michael Sissenwine, director of NMFS’ Northeast Fisheries Science Center, attended the workshop and presented information about the current status of NMFS staffing in the areas of stock assessment and social sciences. The scientific staffing at these facilities has decreased overall in the past several decades. However, a consistent level of employment in stock assessment and social sciences has been maintained to meet the added responsibilities resulting from the Sustainable Fisheries Act of 1996 and the 1996 amendments to the Regulatory Flexibility Act of 1980.
Stock assessment and fisheries social sciences differ significantly in the types of employees required, but both areas are characterized by relatively small pools of experts available to conduct research and train future practitioners. These individuals are spread among many institutions and different departments in these institutions. NMFS relies on universities to produce an adequate supply of employees with the expertise required. Currently, 2,670 persons are employed in more than 80 job categories. – Approximately 1,130 of these employees are technical experts and about 520 will have served with the federal government for at least 20 years in 2005. Similar to other federal agencies, NMFS anticipates regular retirement of 30 percent of its scientists within the next 5 years; an additional increment of as much as 20 percent will leave because of early retirement incentives.
Stock Assessment Science
Stock assessment requires individuals with strong mathematical training, excellent skills in statistics and population dynamics, and knowledge of fish biology, population biology, and fishing practices. Such individuals may hold undergraduate degrees in biology, statistics, or applied mathematics. No standard curriculum is available for preparation of stock assessment scientists, although the National Research Council’s 1998 report Improving Fish Stock Assessments made recommendations with respect to desirable coursework and internships for students to work with NMFS scientists. Stock assessment skills are further developed after hiring. The demand for quantitatively trained individuals is also high in other fields, such as computer programming, industrial operations research, and investment analysis. Thus, fishery management organizations compete with industry for individuals with mathematical skills and training. 3
NMFS estimates that 583 of its employees collect, process, and use data for stock assessments. Of these, approximately 95 individuals actually conduct assessments, do research on stock assessment methods, and conduct policy analysis and follow-up related to stock assessments; approximately 20 of these individuals are women, and a few are Asian Americans. Other ethnic or racial minorities are not presently represented.
The demand for fishery economists and other social scientists is somewhat lower than for stock assessment scientists, and few individuals are being trained in this area. Social scientists perform crucial functions for fisheries management, including
Description of the current and historic social and economic characteristics of fishers and fishing communities
Characterization of the probable local, regional, and national social and economic consequences of alternative management actions
Determination of what fishers and members of fishing communities know about biological, economic, and social aspects of fisheries and associated management processes
Dissemination of information about the social and economic characteristics of the fisheries and how the fishery management process works
Study of the outcomes stakeholders seek and what management institutions and policy instruments they prefer
Design and nurture of data collection programs for the previous purposes
Design of management alternatives for fishery management plans
Multidisciplinary teams composed of stock assessment scientists, fishery biologists, economists, anthropologists, lawyers, and others are important for developing and reviewing fishery management plans. It appears that NMFS and the regional fishery management councils
NMFS presently employs 37 persons in the social sciences (34 economists and 3 anthropologists). Of the anthropologists, 2 are females and 1 is male. Of the economists, 29 are males and 5 are females (4 are minorities). This level of staffing is quite low in light of the need to collect social science data and analyze them rigorously and to provide input to policy recommendations. NMFS has proposed two major initiatives (described below) that would require hiring a significant number of new employees.
NMFS ACTIVITIES AND PLANS
Stock Assessment Improvement Plan
A Stock Assessment Improvement Plan has been drafted by NMFS to describe systematically how staff think stock assessments could be improved and how many additional staff would be needed to achieve different levels of improvement. This plan is
a blueprint for improving NOAA’s capacity to provide best available scientific advice conforming to new national stock assessment standards of data quality, assessment frequency, and analyses.
The plan was stimulated in part by recommendations in the 1998 National Research Council report Improving Fish Stock Assessments. For example, that report (NRC, 1998, p. 117) states that
NMFS and other bodies that conduct fish stock assessments should ensure a steady supply of well-trained stock assessment scientists to conduct actual assessments and to carry out associated research. NMFS should encourage partnerships among universities, government laboratories, and industry for their mutual benefit. This can be accomplished by exchanging personnel and ideas and by providing funding for continuing education at the graduate, postdoctoral, and professional levels, including elements such as cooperative research projects and specialized courses, workshops, and symposia.
The Stock Assessment Improvement Plan was created by the NMFS National Task Force for Improving Fish Stock Assessments and describes NMFS’s vision of desirable future levels of stock assessment activities in terms of three tiers of activities that encompass five levels of stock assessment analysis (see Appendix C ). The tiers are
Tier 1—Improve assessments using existing data
Tier 2—Elevate all assessments to a nationally acceptable level
Tier 3—Next generation assessments
NMFS seeks to elevate all assessments to a nationally acceptable level (Tier 2) And according to its analyses, such a shift would require adding 358 full-time equivalent stock assessment and data collection personnel to the existing 95 individuals (estimated to add about $50 million annually for salaries and benefits).
Social Science Research Program
Complementary to NMFS’ plans to enhance its stock assessments, the agency is developing plans for a Social Science Research Program. The program’s mission is to “establish a coordinated social science capability that can contribute to the science-based conservation and management of living marine resources.” The objective of the program is to “enable NMFS to implement policy alternatives that achieve resource stewardship goals while providing the greatest benefit to, or imposing the least cost on, society.” This will entail recruitment and retention of more analytical economists and anthropologists. NMFS estimates that development of such a capability would require $18.2 million per year to fund additional salaries and benefits, as well as research expenses. This plan would involve phasing in 96 new social scientists over a period of five to seven years. About three-fourths of the new employees would be economists and one-fourth would be sociologists and anthropologists.
NMFS is pursuing a five-element plan for recruiting and training stock assessment and social scientists, including
targeted recruitment programs
cooperative arrangements with universities
increased recruitment from related fields
increased diversity and capacity building
Several of these elements have already been implemented. The prime example of targeted recruitment programs is the new Joint Graduate Fellowship Programs in Population Dynamics and Marine Resource Economics, sponsored by the National Sea Grant College Program and NMFS. 4 Four Ph.D.-level students, funded starting in 2000, are expected to work on “thesis problems of public interest and relevance and to have summer internships under the guidance of a NMFS mentor at participating NMFS Science Centers, Laboratories, or Regional Offices.” Two additional students will be supported by each program in each subsequent year, up to a maximum of six students per program at any given time. The population dynamics program will provide up to three years of support and the resource economics program will provide up to 2 years of support. At the time of the workshop, the first four students had been selected, and one attended the workshop. Although the fellowship program is a good concept for increasing the number of students in the employment pipeline, as presently configured the program is too small to significantly address the proposed increase in staff.
http://www.nsgo.seagrant.org/research/rfp/fellowship_fy2000.html , accessed 10/28/00.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has established a number of cooperative and joint institutes with academic institutions to work on research and education matters. NMFS already participates in several of these institutes ( Box 1.1 ), which often focus on issues of high priority within their regions. Such participation has the added benefit of allowing students to familiarize themselves with NMFS scientists and activities.
Continuing education has long been a priority within NOAA and NMFS. Since 1993, the agency policy has been to dedicate 1.5 percent of personnel costs to training and professional development. Professional development courses are offered through the NOAA Office of Human Resources Management and through arrangements with outside institutions by NMFS regional offices and science centers. In addition, NMFS employees are encouraged to use the National Conservation Training Center run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, which offers courses in related biological sciences, mathematics and statistics, and education and outreach.
NMFS sometimes recruits from such related fields as applied statistics, non-fisheries population dynamics, and non-fisheries resource economics and plans to continue to do so. The agency recognizes that hiring from outside the fisheries field results in a longer time to train new employees in the nuances of fisheries, so there is a definite benefit to hiring individuals who focused on fisheries issues for their graduate work.
As part of its overall recruitment efforts, NMFS is committed to expanding the racial and ethnic diversity of its workforce and to building the capacity of minority-serving institutions. These goals have been communicated through active outreach efforts to such institutions, including cooperative agreements with 21 minority-serving institutions. An example is the agreement between the Woods Hole NMFS laboratory and Jackson State University to develop a fisheries curriculum.
SURVEY OF FISHERY SCIENTISTS
At the workshop, Bonnie McCay presented preliminary results from a survey of fishery scientists that is part of a larger study of science and policy in fisheries management. 5 The more than 350 fishery scientists surveyed included individuals from NMFS, state management agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations. The results of the survey provide insight into the work of fishery scientists and their attitudes about fisheries management, although fishery scientists may not be the best judge of what is lacking or most important in fisheries science and management. A survey of fishery managers or fishers might yield different conclusions. According to McCay, the preliminary analysis shows a high level of consensus among fishery scientists about the importance of additional investment in both stock assessment and social sciences.
BOX 1.1 NMFS Science Center Cooperation With Universities and Participation in Cooperative and Joint Institutes
Southwest Fisheries Science Center (La Jolla, California)
Alaska Fisheries Science Center (Seattle, Washington)
Northeast Fisheries Science Center (Woods Hole, Massachusetts)
(Cooperative Marine Education and Research Program)
Southeast Fisheries Science Center (Miami, Florida)
Northwest Fisheries Science Center (Seattle, Washington)
Survey questions addressed work activities, time pressures, expertise, and issues in training new fishery scientists. These results revealed that fishery scientists in different employment sectors have somewhat different job requirements. One workshop participant suggested that differences in job requirements may indicate that academic programs in fisheries science could be more useful if students were offered career tracks with different types of training or internships and on-the-job training.
A high value is placed on opportunities to conduct scientific research, and basic research is an important component of the job in all sectors except the non-governmental organizations. All but the non-governmental scientists surveyed stated that they probably would be willing to forego career advancement to do more research. Scientists at NMFS were more likely to agree that the most important changes in work activities in the past three years were reduced funding
and fewer personnel. Academic and non-governmental scientists indicated very heavy or overwhelming time pressures in their jobs. Fishery scientists in all sectors indicated that time pressure had increased over the past three years.
Regardless of sector, fishery scientists agreed on the areas of expertise that are the most important for training fishery scientists today: quantitative stock assessment, data collection, mathematics, statistics, computer science, and habitat and aquatic ecosystem science, followed closely by socioeconomics, law, policy, administration, and conservation biology. Respondents from the fisheries science sector believe that training is neglected in many of these areas. Areas that were less often cited as important include fish behavior, genetics, taxonomy, physiology, and fish culture. NMFS scientists, in particular, indicated that fisheries social sciences and mathematics were the most neglected topics.
Fishery scientists indicated that the most useful work being done today is in the areas of quantitative stock assessment and habitat or aquatic ecosystems. Most responses to the question “where do you believe the most intellectually exciting work is being done by fisheries scientists today?”, were “stock assessment and population dynamics, aquatic ecology and fish habitat, genetics, and ecosystem management.”
Overall, the results of the survey indicate that basic attitudes toward fisheries management are similar among U.S. fishery scientists from different employment sectors. Although some differences depend on where a scientist works, these differences are small. State scientists differed from scientists working in other sectors in their responses to questions about working with industry, use of ecosystem-level management, and the use of predefined requirements for overfishing and stock rebuilding. State scientists were more likely than NMFS scientists to favor collaboration with commercial and recreational fishers, although the differences were small (but statistically significant).
In summary, reduced funding and fewer personnel may be putting more time pressures on fishery scientists at NMFS and other agencies. Although some differences were noted in the beliefs of fishery scientists from the different sectors, the importance of stock assessment, quantitative skills, and understanding of fish habitats were broadly apparent. Many scientists also indicated socioeconomics, law, policy, and administration as important areas in fisheries training. McCay pointed out that the survey results support NMFS’ need to train and/or hire fisheries stock assessment and social scientists.
STUDENT CAREER CHOICE
Although employment opportunities at academic research institutions are decreasing in many scientific fields, the demand for scientists in government, industry, and teaching is outpacing the availability of qualified individuals in some fields (NRC, 2000). At the workshop, Arnold Spokane of Lehigh University’s Department of Education described some of the factors that influence student career choice, selection of science careers, and interventions for increasing interest in science careers. His comments are summarized here.
Models of Career Development
Career choice is influenced by interacting factors. The use of models to describe the process of career development helps to isolate factors that may influence career choice and therefore may be affected by specific interventions to increase the number of students entering science careers. Educators recognize three general models of career development: the differential model, the developmental model, and the social systems model. Each model describes a different set of factors related to career development, but actual career choice decisions may result from a complex combination of the factors.
The differential model recognizes that individuals choose careers based on inherent personal traits, probably with a genetic component, that may be affected only partially by external influences. An individual’s perception of his or her personal traits leads to selection of occupations consistent with the perceived traits. Interventions in career choice based on this model may seek to describe and clarify an individual’s personal traits and facilitate exploration of consistent occupations.
The developmental model of career development suggests that career choices progress through stages, building on previous experiences. Decisions about careers are responses to such practical considerations as academic performance, available opportunities, and perceived state of employability. Career choice interventions based on the developmental model may seek to improve the quality of decisions about careers through counseling.
The social systems model of career development focuses on the influence of external factors in the choice of careers. Economics, parental education level, parental encouragement, and peer opinions are examples of such social factors. Career choice within the social environment is based on observation of others in a similar environment and emulation based on these observations. Interventions are designed to alter or enhance the social environment in ways that might affect career choice.
Choice of Science Careers
Large numbers of students with an interest in science depart from this career path at all levels of education, and most do not return. In addition, it is considered very difficult for students to enter science from other fields if they do not have a strong background in mathematics and basic sciences. Consequently, the number of students completing advanced science training is a small fraction of the number of students who express an interest in science in high school. One estimate (Massey, 1989) suggests that the number of Ph.D. degrees awarded in science and engineering is 1.7 percent of the number of high school seniors showing interest in science and engineering.
Some workshop participants asserted that students may avoid careers in fisheries because of the mistaken view that fisheries science focuses solely on harvest of fishery resources to the exclusion of harvest, conservation, management, and scientific understanding of marine
ecosystems. The existence of such associations has led many academic fishery departments to change their names to emphasize conservation. Examples cited by the workshop participants often integrated the word “environment” into the name, even when it seemed redundant. Some participants stated that students may be increasingly attracted by the environmental aspects of fisheries science. The field might be more attractive to students if it emphasized the fundamental issues of population dynamics and biological regulation, the role of fish stocks in structuring marine communities, and other topics related to interactions among the environment, marine ecosystems, and fish populations.
Influencing Career Choice
Research on career choice has shown that short-term increases in science career interest can be achieved. Hearing scientists talk about their personal career development and career satisfaction, successfully completing mathematical activities, and observing a science-related task performed successfully can increase an individual’s confidence in making career choices (Luzzo et al., 1999). These kinds of interventions have not been effective, however, in producing large or long-term changes in attitudes toward science, perhaps because they do not create any necessary changes in an individual’s self-perception. Interventions late in the process of career development may be ineffective. Early intervention or intervention at a critical time (perhaps the middle-school years) may be necessary to both develop the necessary skills and career interest in science.
The JASON Project provides insights into the opportunities and difficulties associated with initiating interventions for stimulating interest in science careers. A program of undersea exploration, the JASON Project combines a specially developed curriculum with live broadcasts from remote ocean sites to allow students to participate secondhand in scientific observation and discovery. In addition, some students participate in the actual cruises. The goal is to improve the attitudes of teachers and students in grades 4-12 toward science, and ocean science in particular, and to inspire students to pursue scientific careers. More than 250,000 students have participated in the live broadcasts. A small study was conducted at one site to assess the program’s impact (Bazler et al., 1993). Participants completed surveys on attitudes toward science before and after the JASON Project telecasts. The results indicated that this type of intervention to enhance science attitudes may not have universal positive effects. According to Spokane, the most significant impacts of the JASON Project cruises appear to occur in students who participate in the cruises directly. The relationship between a student’s grade in school and the effect of the JASON experience suggests that middle school may be the best time for interventions in science attitudes, or that science interest peaks during these years.
A broad array of intervention strategies at all educational levels (K-12, undergraduate, graduate) could be used to increase interest in fisheries science and the pool of individuals interested in pursuing a career in this field. Interventions (and possibly job analysis and redesign) are particularly important for increasing the participation of women and minorities. Support—financial, emotional, and social—is needed to retain women and minorities in the educational pipeline.